School of Education and Social Work

Race Equality

The School of Education and Social Work recognises the importance of strengthening equality and inclusion and of promoting dignity, respect and a sense of belonging for people of all ethnicities, cultures and races. Our aim is to create safe spaces and provide opportunities to collectively and collaboratively reflect on and discuss race and inequality, anti-racism and the decolonisation of higher education.

This page highlights some of our ongoing work to improve racial equality and to support ESW staff and students who have a wide range of heritages and are who are racially minoritised. We also seek to cultivate an inclusive culture that is conducive to openly discussing race-related issues and challenging racism.

Racial Microaggressions Presentation: 18 November 2021

Following Rebbecca Hemmings from Strawberry Words presentation and Q&A at the School meeting on this date, the following are useful reference documents:


The language used to talk about race equality is continually evolving. For example, the term BAME - which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic - is often used in higher education institutions but is highly contested.

For some, BAME is considered as a homogenising term which does not appreciate the varied historical and lived experiences of those who have a wide range of heritages and are racially minoritised. Others find it helpful in specific contexts. Check out this useful introduction to these debates and issues.

In recognition of the issue, we take a flexible approach to the term's use in ESW. Official data reporting processes, such as that set up by the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) and wider University projects, require the term BAME. Therefore, it will still be present in some of our communications and practices.

ESW colleagues are, however, encouraged to avoid using the term BAME as a ‘catch all’, replacing it with ‘racially minoritised groups’ as a more appropriate descriptor which highlights the reasons we are making claims about a group of people. However, best practice is to be specific where issues pertain to Black, Asian, or other ethnic groups, rather than using generalised labels. Where possible, the disaggregation of data should be aimed for.

Race Equity Action Group

For approx one year from autumn 2020, ESW had a Race Equity Action Group facilitated by the School's nominated Race Equity Advocates, Anushka Luther-Smith and Wangui Muhika and comprising members of the School's Leadership Team along with any BAME staff members who wanted and were available to join meetings. The aim of the group was to discuss and act on race equity issues as they came to light.

The following are notes from the meetings held, and an action log:

Race Equality Action Plan

The School of Education and Social Work is serious about the need for ongoing work from all members of the school community to address racism and race equality in higher education.

As a School, we have committed to a Race Equality Action Plan which contains our vision for change alongside a series of ongoing actions that we will update in order to be responsive to ideas emerging with and from our school community. This is intended to be a working document and staff are encouraged to contact Co-Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Emily Danvers, with any comments, questions, suggested amendments or any other matter related to it that they wish to discuss.

ESW Anti-Racism Resources

The ESW Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee have created a Padlet as a living document for staff and students to add resources and reading recommendations to refer to as a support to aid developing anti-racism in teaching and learning. Please add to it with resources and ideas of your own and let us know if and how it has been useful for you. 

Upcoming Race Equity Events

ESW BAME Staff and Student Forum
Date: Friday 8 April
Time: 1-2pm
Presenter: Riziki Millanzi, Doctoral Researcher in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities
Title of session: Researching Black Girl Magic as a Biracial scholar: Methodology, experiences and race

Riziki is a first-generation biracial doctoral scholar researching the representation of Black women in speculative literature and popular culture. Her presentation will examine what it is like to research Black Girl Magic as a biracial woman when some argue that you're not Black enough or too white. It will also dive into Riziki's methodology, experiences within academia and ideas surrounding racism, decolonisation and diversity.

Zoom link: (Meeting ID 914 6594 6326)

Previous Race Equity Events
  • Friday 28 January 2022 / 1-2pm
    ESW Staff & Student Forum

    Two key agenda items:
    - The Power of Storytelling: an opportunity for you to share about yourself and your experiences and in so doing reduce feelings of isolation and powerlessness
    - Plan of activities for the year, including how to implement our School’s Race Equality Action Plan.

  • Friday 12 November 2021 / 1-2pm
    TED Talk followed by a discussion: How to get serious about diversity and inclusion in the workplace
    This event was open to all students and staff in the School of Education and Social Work and not restricted to those who identify themselves as minoritised

  • Thursday 14 October 2021 / 4-5pm
    Black perspective on diversity and inclusion’ by invited speaker from the Brighton and Hove Black Anti-Racism Community Organisation (BARCO)
    This event was open to all students and staff in the School of Education and Social Work and not restricted to those who identify themselves as minoritised.

  • There have been five BAME Student and Staff Forum imageBAME Student & Staff Forums to date - on 22 July, 2021, 20 May 2021, 19 March 2021, 18 Jan 2021 and 26 Nov 2020. Chaired by Lecturer and Social Work BA course leader, Dr Tam Cane and co-chaired by Senior Research Officer, Dr Deeptima Massey, these termly Forums are platforms for staff and postgraduate researchers to engage in respectful conversations about identity, family background and share experiences of race. Forums have helped to build trust and identify commonalities, as well as to offer key insights and appreciations of difference.

    To celebrate ESW's rich cultural and ethnic diversity, the School of Education and Social Work invited Professor Vinita Damodaran (School of Media, Arts and Humanities) and Professor Priya Deshingkar (School of Global Studies) to reflect on their academic journeys and what it means to be a female BAME academic in Britain today. The virtual event, which took place on 22 July, was targeted at all staff and students in ESW and was organised by the School's BAME Staff and Student Forum team.

    Both speakers highlighted how the intersection of patriarchy with racism and discrimination contributed to feelings of inferiority, lack of confidence, being devalued, and delays in their careers. They also shared how they were able to cope and surpass challenging experiences, and how their external recognition helped to counter the racism/sexism that they experienced from within their workplace. Their accounts illuminated the importance of mentoring and coaching for BAME (and all other) staff and students to help them identify opportunities, navigate challenges and enable them to flourish in an environment where they are underrepresented. They also highlighted the importance of forums - such as the ESW BAME Staff and Student Forum - to provide avenues for sharing personal experiences and increasing awareness of the prevalence of some experiences - and in so doing reduce feelings of isolation and powerlessness.  

    The Professors encouraged attendees to be assertive in the ways in which they carve out their academic/research niches and identities. Their recommendation was that universities improve the experiences of staff from minoritised ethnic groups through a drive to collect qualitative data on the experiences of BAME staff so that glaring issues can be detected and addressed. There should be seed corn funding for BAME researchers, and investment in early career researchers. BAME staff should also be better represented on interview panels, as appraisers, and on all committees at all levels of the University as a matter of principle. They should also be included in key decision-making roles - including university and school administration and senior management teams - and be involved with the implementation of egalitarian policies, tenures, promotions and salaries. Institutional resources should be directed for training BAME staff for these roles.

  • Wednesday 18 November 2020 / 3-4.30pm
    CTLR hosted 'Decolonising Higher Education' panel discussion
    Jason Arday, Durham University
    Christine Callender, University College London
    Akanksha Mehta, Goldsmiths College
    Yusuf Sayed, University of Sussex. 
    Moves to ‘decolonise’ reading lists, pedagogies and broader practices within higher education institutions are prompted by the urgency of redressing forms of disadvantage associated with racism and colonialism. For educators in higher education, decolonising the curriculum has multiple meanings – from reflection on the embeddedness of privilege and whiteness within course curricula to practical efforts to broaden the scope of reading lists to include more diverse scholars. This panel session aims to raise and make visible some of the key debates within moves to decolonise, while also suggesting practical pedagogies and ways forward for re-designing higher education classrooms more inclusively.

  • Thursday 22 October 2020 / 3-4pm 
    Black History Month Reflection Space: A conversation on Allyship
    Hosted by Dr Tam Cane and Dr Emily Danvers
    (ESW Staff and Students Only) 

    In celebration of Black History Month, the EDI committee is running an event to reflect on the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff in ESW. This event is the beginning of meaningful conversations about what active allyship means in our School. All staff and students from ESW are welcome. You may wish to read the Guide to Allyship in advance to help stimulate your thinking.

  • Friday 16 October 2020 / 4-5pm
    'My Roots'

    ESW staff and students share their stories and narratives to develop a better understanding of identity, culture, and ethnicity.

University-level Support and Resources

BAME Staff Network

The University's BAME Staff Network is for all staff who define themselves as belonging to a minority ethnic group. If you would like to join the network to receive notification of meetings and events you can find out more by emailing

BAME Student Support

The Student Life Centre have created a resource page to support BAME students. They also offer 'Race and culture support sessions' for students wanting to share thoughts and concerns - whether in relation to their experiences as a BME student, or any other matter. See their information page to book.

Race Equity Advocates

Race Equity Advocates (previously referred to as BAME ambassadors) are part of a programme which aims to  combat institutional racism at Sussex and create a learning environment in which BAME students can thrive.  More information about this important initiative can be found here. The advocate for ESW is Anushka Luther-Smith who can be contacted by staff or students at:

Educational Resources

Here is a collection of resources/readings we have collated if you wish to read.

Asians in Britain is a free learning resource aimed at students and the general public that has been produced in partnership with 'Beyond the Frame: Indian British Connections', a research project led by The Open University and funded by the AHRC.

Black British History at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies fosters creative dialogue between researchers, educationalists (mainstream and supplementary), archivists and curators, and policy-makers.

History Lessons Project by the Runnymede Trust attempts to deal with the question of 'who gets included in the story?'. You can access video content, a perspective paper, and teaching resources from the project, in addition to many other useful educational resources.

Jeffrey Green, Historian, founded his website in 2009 - in part as a response to what he regarded as ill-founded articles on history, and also to make available images and documents that he had been accumulating since the late 1970s. In late 2014, the site invited contributors and this facility still interests people. Jeffrey's website is a valuable resource for those looking into Black history and includes images, biographies and much more.

The Making Britain database was created to provide access to a wealth of material about the South Asian presence in Britain from 1870 to 1950, including information about organisational involvement, their British connections, and details of major events.

The Making Histories website is an exciting collection of fascinating family histories and migration stories documented by young people in Cardiff, Leicester and Sheffield which has been created by the Runnymede Trust and the London School of Economics. You can hear incredible oral history interviews exploring journeys to Britain from parts of Europe, India, Africa, the Caribbean and beyond. Stories range from escaping a volcanic eruption in the Caribbean island of Montserrat to being recruited from Zambia to work in the NHS. These deeply personal stories will make you think about history in a completely new way.

The Understanding and Celebrating Our Roots project by the Granby Somali Women’s Group investigates the relationship between Britain and Somaliland during the period of colonisation and the impact the British had during this period. The project aims to capture stories about this period and and preserve them through oral traditions.

TED Talks on Achieving Racial and Gender Equality
Inspirational Poetry

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou


Celebrating Our Roots

Robert OmwaRobert Omwa

Robert is from Kisumu in Kenya. He is a proud black African and an educationist for over 10 years. A crusader for children's rights, the 'Learning about Decolonizing the Curriculum' module on his International Education and Development MA course (for which he is a Student Rep) has highlighted for him the ills of colonialism and neocolonialism and how they still affect education in the global south today. He holds the Head of State’s Commendation (HSC) bequeathed by H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta for leading teachers in Kenya to be advocates for the rights of children. He is a current Chevening Scholar and a certified Positive Discipline Classroom Educator and Parenting Coach. He serves as an international adviser for the Positive Discipline Association. 

As part of the founding members of Beacon Teachers Africa (BETA), Robert has used his passion for safe schools to coordinate the activities of the organization from it's inception. He was at the forefront of a Beacon Teachers Africa led initiative to train over 10,000 teachers in Kenya;  to become agents of child protection. In early July 2021, Robert joined  Acharya Shree Vijay Vallabh school in India during their Positive Discipline Felicitation and certificate ceremony where he gave a moving speech on the urgent need for safe schools.

Robert is the Founder of Precious Seed Africa (PSA), a youth-led grassroots community-based organization that champions youth empowerment and child rights. 

Fezile SibandaFezile Sibanda

I am Ndebele/Zimbabwean and have spent most of my life living in Southend, Essex. My southern african heritage has informed my interest in coloniality and how it impacts knowledge and understanding of racialised groups.

I studied (BA) Education at the University of Brighton where I was first introduced to scholars such as Frantz Fanon and Edward Said and became deeply interested in ‘postcolonialism’ which later developed into a interest in (de)coloniality. During my time studying MA Social Justice and Education at UCL, Institute of Education I looked at western imperialism in the academy. While at university I also noticed a lack of people of colour, especially when looking at academics. As I wanted to pursue a career in academia I decided to dedicate my scholarship to examining the persisting inequalities faced by racialised academics in British institutions.

My PhD topic has been informed by each of my academic experiences and my own identity. I will be focusing on the notion of coloinality within British academia, in relation to black academics working in higher education institutions.

Outside of my academic work, I am interested in climate and social justice and often attend events in aid of these causes. My other passions include reading, crocheting and music (particularly soul, jazz and UK underground hip-hop). I am excited to be part of Sussex’s race equality community as a Black Ndebele/Zimbabwean Women with a lovely Essex accent 

Avanka FernandoAvanka Fernando

I am from Sri Lanka and I live in the City of Colombo. I am currently following a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex and working as a PGRA for the CSWIR research centre in the Department of Social Work & Social Care.

I come from people known as Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. However, I prefer to emphasise my Sri Lankan identity over my ethnic identity, as ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has constantly riven my country apart. What I love about my island is that it is home to different ethnicities, languages, religions and cultures. One of my favourite Sri Lankan snacks is “achcharu” (a combination of different fruit mixed in brine - pickled fruit) found at Galle Face (beach in Colombo). Achcharu is my Sri Lankan experience in a nutshell: people of different - often contested - histories and cultures, diverse ethnicities, languages and religions intermingled in one messy, hybrid experience which can only be described as absurdly delicious!  

Sushri 200x200Sushri Sangita Puhan

I am an Indian, born and raised in Odisha,  a heritage state in the eastern part of India. I came to the UK in 2015 to pursue my second Masters at the University of Sussex followed by a Ph.D in Social Work. These five years have been incredibly rewarding to live, to learn, and to lead the life I love. The warmth and openness of the country have given me the space to immerse myself in the new culture, learn new skills, and having new experiences without diluting my Indianness. Although my love for draping the six-yard Indian attire, a saree, has been restricted to limited occasions, however, I celebrate whenever there is an opportunity. It makes me feel immensely proud. 

Brenda Hayanga 200x200Brenda Hayanga

I was born in Kenya and describe myself as a Luo -  an ethnic group of people who live around a lake we call Nam Lolwe  (Lake Victoria) - the source of the famous Nile river. I have lived in and visited many different countries and, as such, have had the privilege of being exposed to many different cultures. I pride myself on being open to learning about and understanding other people and their cultures, religions and ways of life.

I am a fitness, health and wellbeing fanatic! During my free time, you will find me doing something creative, or thinking about doing something creative (usually the latter). I am also passionate about research, research methods and the potential that it has to improve society and impact positively on individual's quality of life. 

Donna Comerford 200x200Donna Comerford

I'm Afro-Guyanese British, born and raised in the UK. With the luxury of reflection, I can claim myself a lifelong learner. Growing up in the UK in the 1970s was a challenge with the pull of two different cultures. I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge as a young child and had read through the Watford children's library by age 13. 

I began studying with the Open University in the 90s and have been hooked ever since! I used OU credits to enter De Montfort University in 1997 graduating with a BSc Hons. in Information Systems with Management in 2001. I undertook a PGCE (Initial Teacher Education) in 2001 and began my first teaching job in 2002. In 2010, I started to mix formal and informal education with the local digital industry in Brighton and also nationally.

In 2016, I recommenced studies with the Open University, graduating in July 2020 with an MSc in Technology Management. I had been thinking about whether I could do a PhD for a couple of years, but it seemed like something totally out of my reach. However, when I took very early retirement and a trip around the world, focusing on nothing but my final two OU modules, I began to consider the (im)possible - especially as my grades were very good when I wasn't juggling a million other things. I decided ultimately to apply for a PhD in International Education at the University of Sussex. I've been on my doctoral journey since September 2020 with the research theme: "What is the role of education during internal displacement: Perspectives of a rural community in Fiji".

Deeptima Massey 200x200

Deeptima Massey

I was born and brought up in Delhi, India. I came to the UK almost two decades ago to pursue a doctorate - and never left. I am happy that most of my friends and colleagues address me using my ‘foreign’ Indian name, with only a few using the nickname ‘Dee’ - to which I warmly respond. With no outside pressure and to assimilate better in the culture, I felt the need to negotiate my [Indian] identity in terms of what I wear and my diet - within my professional workplace as well as social gatherings. Increasingly rare are opportunities for me to wear my traditional dress. But when they arise, to do so gives me a real sense of pride and joy at being an Indian!

Tam Cane image

Tam Cane

I am a British-Black-Shona-African academic, educated in private schools who progressed through university education and obtained my PhD at the University of Surrey in 2015. My work focuses on equality and the inclusion of people living with HIV and looking at the intersections of various identities. I am delighted to be involved in multiple projects and activities to address the inequalities experienced by ethnic minority students and social work clients. See my recent educational animated video. I am thrilled to be taking part in this celebration of our roots.

Martin Luther King quote